7 Ways to Help Your Child Grow Self-Esteem

Does very high self-esteem always have positive effects on children's adjustment?

Helping your child grow up with strong self-esteem is the most important task of parenthood. As a parent, you are the primary influence on how your child feels about herself–her self-esteem. You are a mirror of who she is. And you want your child to feel valuable, to have strong self-esteem.

Kids with high self-esteem have an easier time in life.

Providing a positive reflection doesn’t mean you allow your child to run the family or approve of everything he/she does. It does mean that you that build positive self-esteem.

The question remains then, does very high self-esteem always have positive effects on children’s adjustment?

Listening to your child builds self-esteem.

Choose a time when you can give your child your full attention with a minimum of distractions. Invite your child to talk by asking some open-ended questions that can’t be answered by “yes” or “no.” Then follow his lead. When you can not take the time to listen to your child, she feels unimportant, boring, not good enough. Low self-esteem follows.

Active listening builds self-esteem.

Look at your child, ask questions, and paraphrase statements. Remember to look with your eyes. (See Talk.) Pay attention to feelings, posture, and your tone of voice.

If necessary, help a young child find words to describe his/her feelings.

Don’t distract yourself with details. Just listen for the point of the story and give feedback to the point.

Don’t try to fix things. Children usually want to share an experience, not hear a solution. Learning to solve their own problems builds self-esteem, too.

Accepting your child builds self-esteem.

When you accept all of your child, the good and the bad, your child can accept him/herself. This is the foundation of self-esteem. Train yourself to:

  • Recognize his/her unique abilities and talents.
  • Reinforce, nurture, and help the child see these talents.
  • See negative behavior in the context of who your child is.
  • Focus only on changing behavior that is important to change, i.e. behavior that isolates or harms him/her or disrupts the family. You don’t need and should not want to change everything about your child to fit your “specs.”

Again, your job is to make your child feel valuable and build self-esteem.

Use the language of self-esteem.

Describe the behavior without judging the child so that you distinguish between the child’s worth and his/her behavior. Describing behavior gives him/her accurate feedback about actions and how actions affect the child and others. By not labeling a child as good or bad, you separate appraisals of behavior from basic value or worth.

Share the reasons behind your reactions. It is easier for children to meet expectations and/or avoid conflict when they understand why you react they way you do.Validate your child’s experience so that he/she feels seen and understood as a worthy person even when behavior is being corrected.

Praise without overpraising to build self-esteem.

Praise is what gives children the message that they are accepted and appreciated. They learn to praise themselves and recognize and value their own efforts and talents.

On the other hand, overpraise creates pressure to be the “smartest, best, most wonderful kid ever,” a set-up for eventual failure.

Avoid backhanded praise. This mixes praise and insult.

Say, “I’m glad you got it done,” instead of, “It’s about time.”

Try, “You look good in blue,” instead of, “I’m glad you are wearing something besides all that black you and your friends like.”

Discipline and set limits to build self-esteem.

Children who are not disciplined can not grow up with high self-esteem. They tend to feel more dependent and also feel that they have less control over their world.

Children will run into disapproval and cruelties in the world. They need the physical and emotional protection of rules and limits to grow self-esteem.

When you give your child acceptance and he/she can see you really see, value, and appreciate him/her, you have provided armor against drugs, unhealthy relationships, and delinquency.

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